Interviews can be quite overwhelming, especially if you have high stakes in the position. However, there’s no other job that requires you to adhere to specific personality standards as much as a sales representative position.
We don’t say that to stress you out even more, but if you don’t have an extensive track record as a successful sales rep, you need to be ready for what’s out there in the wild wild world of sales professionals.
That’s why this guide on how to land a sales job and always come prepared for the interview can help you sleep well the night before the “big” day.
Here you’ll learn about:
- What stages there are in the sales rep interview
- The goals for each stage
- What you need to prepare for and what’s expected from you
- How to prepare for a sales interview with no experience
- Tips on how to make a good impression
So let’s dive right in!
What Sales Jobs You Can Apply For
Besides leadership and customer success jobs, the sales world has multiple positions to fill in. The most common job titles are sales development representative (SDR) and an Account Executive (AE).
Even though you will probably see a lot of different titles while looking for a sales opportunity, they will all have something in common with either SDR or AE jobs.
Let’s learn more about each of these:
- Sales Development Representatives are responsible for filling the sales pipeline with qualified leads. This means that they start their journey at the very beginning of the sales cycle, doing cold calls and arranging meetings with potential clients. They do outbound prospecting before giving a green light to account executives who are in charge of the next stage of the sales cycle.
- Account executives are responsible for engaging with prospective clients and closing deals. They work at further stages of the sales cycle.
In some companies, both SDRs and AEs are responsible for cold calling and filling up the sales funnel with qualified leads.
If you don’t have any experience in sales, it’s easier to land an SDR job since it normally doesn’t require an extensive track record. All you need is a positive mindset and eagerness to learn and deliver great results for your company. To motivate you even more, most sales jobs have a commission system that allows you to get hefty bonuses for bringing new clients to the company.
Now, AE jobs are a bit more complicated and require you to have some previous experience in a similar position.
For you to have a bit more confidence during an interview, you need to familiarize yourself with the process and what you can expect at every stage.
Sales Job Interview Stages
Every company has its own approach to conducting interviews with applicants. However, if you prepare yourself for every case scenario, you will have a bigger chance to succeed.
Let’s take a look at some common stages during a sales representative interview and the most common sales interview questions and answers.
1. “Get-to-know-each-other” call
The initial stage of a sales interview process is just as important as a skills assessment itself because the first impression really matters. Some people are great at first impressions, others need some prep beforehand, and we’re here for you.
Goals: To get a glimpse of the person’s motivation and personality to make sure they fit the bill perfectly. The interviewer will then decide whether the candidate’s voice and vibe match those of a potential salesperson at a given company.
Frequently asked questions with tips on how to answer them:
- Personality assessment
Personality assessment questions are aimed at finding out whether you and your views of the job match with an actual offer. The most common questions that you might want to get ready for include the following:
- How do you describe your perfect job?
Tips: A good answer to this question is to describe something similar to the open position you’re applying for. If you interview for the position of an SDR, it probably doesn’t make sense to talk about your dreams of being a software engineer or an artist.
- What is the main reason for your application?
Tips: To answer this one, you need to conduct prior research of the company and tell the interviewers about something inspired by their vision and mission that made you desperately want to get this job. Try to be honest, but don’t be shy to compliment the company a bit.
- Technical skills questions (for salespeople with previous relevant job experience)
You will only encounter these questions if you have ever had some sales experience before. The most popular questions are:
- What is your sales volume (lowest /highest deal)?
- Have you had any experience with cold calls (Outbound)?
- Have you ever done prospecting or generated leads yourself?
Tips: The answers to these questions should show the interviewer that you are successful at your job and that you will be able to generate revenue for a new company and bring real results.
- Personal experience
Personal experience questions are also quite common during the initial get-to-know-each-other stage. The interviewer wants to know whether you have stories worth telling. Some of the questions you might expect here are:
- Tell us about the time you were successful at your job.
- Describe the most significant experiences that shaped who you are today.
Tips: When giving your answer, stick to the point and only bring up relevant facts. Focus on the most fascinating parts of your track record and try to make a good impression.
- Professional Development
These questions are supposed to help an interviewer get a glimpse of what kind of a professional you are and whether you spend time developing your skills. Let’s take this question as an example:
- Can you give me an example of what you recently learned and how it helped you do your job even better?
Tips: To be able to impress your interviewer, tell an entertaining story about something that helped you perform better and showed you from the most beneficial perspective and as a responsible employee.
Integrity is a must-have quality for a salesperson. That’s why some interviewers might ask you questions aimed at finding out whether you’re a trustworthy employee and how you handle conflict situations.
- Have you ever made promises to your customers that you were later unable to keep? What were they, and how did you resolve the conflict?
Tips: Sooner or later, all salespeople face the problem of disappointing their clients. And if you have experience working in sales, you probably have a couple of stories to tell.
However, don’t try to whitewash your story if it includes some unflattering moments. Tell the truth and don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability and admit that you have some things to learn.
Now that you know what to expect from the initial stage, there’s a higher probability that you nail it. This means that you will most likely get invited for the second stage of an interview.
2. Prepared/Impromptu mock-up call
Depending on the company and the position itself, you’re likely to be asked to conduct a mock-up call with your interviewer. This means that you need to be prepared for anything. In order for this part of the interview to go smoothly, you need some thorough preparation.
Goals: Find out whether the candidate is competent enough to present the company and its product/services from the most flattering perspective and whether he/she knows how to handle objections, indecisiveness, and pressure.
Tips: Learn as much as possible about the company you’re interviewing for, their customers, and competitors. This way you will be able to form an idea about how the company works and present yourself as a knowledgeable candidate.
Now, if you’re new to sales, you will probably get some heads-up before this interview step and you will have some time to prepare. However, if you're applying for more senior sales positions, this part can come unexpectedly during one of the interview stages. That’s why we always recommend anticipating the mock-up call stage.
3. Personality Test (optional)
Another completely arbitrary part of an interview is a personality test. It’s not a completely self-sufficient stage of an interview, but you might still be asked to take a personality test at any given time during an interview process.
Goals: find out whether you have a personality that matches the salesperson’s profile and whether you can work well under pressure, handle difficulties, and come out victorious in even the most challenging situations.
Tips: This interview stage is not something you should worry about too much, as you can easily guess what answers your employer is looking for. However, we recommend being truthful and giving the answers that you feel describe you the best because you don’t want to land a job you will not be suited for, right?
4. Team fit
One of the latest stages of a sales interview is a team fit assessment.
Goals: Your line manager must be sure that you will find common ground with other team members and be willing to share your experience with them and even learn from them when needed.
At this stage, you will be introduced to other team members and will have a chance to ask them some questions. Additionally, you will get a clearer picture of the company and the working conditions, which will also be very useful for you to know.
Tips: to land this interview, show your (possible) future colleagues that you’re an easy-going and friendly person who shares their interests and passions. Be open about your previous experiences, answer questions honestly, and ask questions in return.
General Tips on How to Make a Good Impression
Interviews can be quite challenging, that’s why sometimes it’s so hard to make a good impression as you’re under so much pressure. But there are some things that you can prepare beforehand that will make you seem knowledgeable and considerate:
- Do your homework. Before every interview, conduct thorough research on a given company, its clients, and competitors. Interviewers love finding out that candidates did their homework because it shows that they have much-needed research skills.
- Prepare answers to the most common questions beforehand. Now that you know what questions to expect, prepare your answers and practice beforehand.
- Be truthful. If you try to conceal the truth or make facts up on the go, interviewers will most probably notice it. Sometimes, it’s better to tell the truth if you don’t know something rather than come off as arrogant.
- Keep your answers short and concise. One of the most common mistakes a lot of candidates make is taking too long to answer a question. The skill of being concise and precise is especially important in salespeople because it shows that you can handle delivering short and sweet pitches.
- Show that you’re open to learning and improving your skills. Even if you’re already a very successful and experienced salesperson, you always need to learn new sales tactics and tricks, to keep up with this fast-paced industry and stay competitive.
- Ask questions. This part can be quite challenging for people who did prior research on the company and now know too much to have some questions left to ask. However, showing interest in a company signals that you really want to land this job and interviewers expect you to ask follow-up questions. That’s why we recommend always listening to what the interviewer says and asking questions based on the things you heard.
- Last but not least: do your own assessment. It means that you should also assess the situation based on the available information to make the right decision about the job offer. Therefore, asking questions and checking the vibe of an organization and the people working there is crucial. You should never accept an offer if you feel that the vibe is off or that your line manager’s personality doesn’t match yours.
Start Off Your Sales Journey Right
Nailing an interview and landing the job of your dreams is only the first step in a long journey of a salesperson. Nevertheless, this step can predefine your future in this industry. Therefore, never underestimate the power of the first impression and always come prepared for the unexpected.